Going without the ghouls

Port Watson St. church offers alternative to typical Halloween


Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Dressed as a witch, Sherida Artis, 8, sings inspirational songs along with her twin sister, Shaniqua, her sister Dollan, 4, and cousin Octavia Lewis,12, at a party at God’s Lighthouse of Praise on Port Watson Street.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Those gathered at God’s Lighthouse of Praise on Port Watson Street Tuesday night found only one spirit to celebrate.
The church hosted about 50 children and their families who gathered to enjoy singing, games and food without the usual Halloween themes.
Moriah Horn, 9, showed up dressed as a gypsy and her sister Elizah, 4, came with a cat’s face lightly drawn on.
“Do you know the Hunchback of Notre Dame?” Moriah asked, referring to the popular 1996 animated Disney movie. “I’m the girl with the donkey.”
“Esmeralda, I think her name is,” added her mother, Christy Horn, of Cortlandville.
Christy Horn had heard about the festivities at Grace Christian Fellowship in Homer, the congregation to which she belongs.
“We don’t do trick-or-treating,” Horn said.
Only a few of the young people came dressed in costume.
Along with his four younger brothers, Derek Prior, 17, of Cortland sat in the back of the meeting room and enjoyed watching the game of charades that was going on in the front of the room.
Prior’s family is religious, he said, and between the weather and the company of his friends, the games, singing and food at God’s Lighthouse just seemed like a better idea.
“We just don’t really believe in the holiday,” Prior said. “My brothers think it’s immature to trick or treat anyways, so this is just something fun.”
God’s Lighthouse of Faith and the Grace Christian Fellowship had come together to sponsor the event, as well as members of the SUNY Cortland Student Government Association and the co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.
About 12 SUNY Cortland students showed up to help with the event, said Mike Scala, vice president of the SGA and president of Alpha Phi Omega.
Scala, a junior from East Yaphank, Long Island, said he had been working with Rita Wright — who is co-pastor of God’s Lighthouse, along with her husband, Nate Wright — since his freshman year. Rita Wright is the director of the Aid to Victims of Violence program at the YWCA on Clayton Avenue.
“We went out and got some gifts for the kids, and planned some games,” Scala said. “I just like reaching out to the community. One of my goals is to really bridge the gap between the campus and the community … and really try to make a difference in some of these kids’ lives. We just wanted to try to keep these kids off the streets and have a safe place for them to go, instead of being out in the dark, in the street, with strangers giving them candy, treats and gifts.”
Although the children didn’t know it at the time, Scala said that all the older children would win the “grand prize” at some point in the evening, which was a visit to the SUNY Cortland campus. Scala said he hoped to spark an interest in higher education.
The students cut apples, filled up brown paper treat bags with Bible verses pasted on the sides, and prepared the basement for the roughly 50 children, with families in tow, who showed up to have fun.
Only a few wore costumes, but they all wore smiles as they participated in Christian-themed sing-alongs led by the youth pastor for the Grace Christian Fellowship, Barry Kerner, of Homer.
Scala used a piano and snippets of popular and classical music to torture those involved in a game of musical chairs. He would slow the songs down, speed them up again, and abruptly stop (or sometimes, just hint at a stop) until everyone was laughing and falling over one another, trying to snag a chair.


Former Tompkins district attorney dies of heart attack

Former longtime Tompkins County District Attorney George Dentes died of a massive heart attack Tuesday morning outside his Albany office, according to county officials.
Dentes, 52, grew up in Ithaca. After working as an assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, he served as Tompkins County District Attorney from 1990 to 2005.
After leaving public office last year, he worked in a training capacity for the New York State Prosecutors Association in Albany.
“His job there was to train incoming DAs, so he was doing what he loved: teaching and sharing his passion for justice,” county Legislator Michael Koplinka-Loehr said Tuesday.
“He was a well-loved department head, husband, father, an excellent coach, and a fine friend to many,” said Tompkins County Administrator Stephen Whicher. “George was well known for his very direct style, sense of humor, leadership, honesty, and integrity. I will remember George for the respect he commanded and deserved, as well as his sayings, such as, ‘It’s not always about what it is about.’ Tompkins County government and community will sorely miss him.”
Dentes is survived by his wife, Elsie, two sons and a daughter.



Police: 3 SUNY students blew up mailboxes

Staff Reporter

Three SUNY Cortland students were arrested Tuesday for blowing up mailboxes in Cortland County, police said.
John T. McAvaney, 20, of 163 S. Third Ave., Ilion; Arnold Nicholas, 20 of 134 Dashnaw Road, Peru; and Nicholas Longino, 20, 5129 St-37, Malone, were each charged with two counts of fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.
State Police said the three men made explosive devices out of plastic bottles, toilet cleaner and aluminum foil. The three placed the devices in mailboxes on Page Green Road and McLean Road in Cortlandville, causing them to explode, police said.
Police said the three men blew up the mailboxes either late Monday night or early Tuesday morning.
Director of Public Relations for SUNY Cortland Peter Koryzno said this morning that if the students are found to be in violation of school policy, they could face any number of sanctions, including community service or suspension.
“The matter has been referred by University Police to the Office of Judicial Affairs,” he said.
Police said they arrested the men after they discovered that Arnold purchased toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil with his credit card from the Price Chopper in Cortlandville on Monday. Police said the bottles used to blow up the mailboxes were Price Chopper brand soda bottles.
The three students were released and are scheduled to appear Nov. 6 in Cortlandville Town Court.



Bus route from C’ville to Cornell nears finalization

Staff Reporter

A proposed bus route from Cortlandville to Cornell University in Ithaca remains on hold as Cortland and Tompkins county officials work  out minor language in the contract between the two counties.
Tompkins County has a standard, one-page authorization agreement that it has used in similar arrangements with Chemung and Tioga counties, both of which offer service to Cornell. Cortland County has its own standard contract language, according to Dan Dineen, director of the Cortland County Planning Department.
“We’re in the process of determining if the two documents are compatible,” Dineen said.
Dwight Mengel, chief transportation planner for Tompkins County, said that, essentially, Tompkins County is interested in simply authorizing Cortland County to run the bus route rather than entering into a contract.
“We think we can do this without signing a contract — basically we’re just giving permission for this, we’re not having anything to do with the actual service, so we don’t need to have a contract,” Mengel said. “Right now we’re just trying to get that clarified within Tompkins County, that what we want to do is give Cortland County the authorization to provide this service.”
The only real concern Tompkins County has with the route involves liability should there be an accident or any other sort of problem on a Cortland County bus in Tompkins County, Mengel said.
Dineen said that Cortland County would have no problem with accepting all liability for the route, but added that the county had not yet received a draft of Tompkins County’s authorization agreement.
Mengel was hopeful he could get a resolution in front of the Tompkins County Legislature, and get the proposed agreement to Cortland County, as soon as possible.
“We want to get this done very fast; we want to get it off our plates,” Mengel said.
The Cortland County Legislature approved the new route in February.
The new bus route would serve approximately 20 to 25 people on a daily basis, Cortland Transit Manager Sandra Perry has said. It would likely feature one morning and one afternoon run to accommodate Cortland residents who are employed at Cornell, and would depart from a park-and-ride area at Cortlandville Park on Route 281.
The cost per rider would likely be compatible to the costs of the Chemung County service — which offers one-way service for $4 and a monthly pass for $48 — and Tioga County — which charges $5 for a one-way trip, with a $60 monthly pass. Perry said Tuesday that once the contractual issues are resolved, it wouldn’t take long to get the route started.
“Once all the legal issues and paperwork is completed, we’ll start our advertising campaign and we’ll start the service,” she said.
Officials from Cortland County will discuss the bus route at a meeting Monday.